Mustangs look to finish strong

Trey Bursey, seen here putting a shot up in practice, has been integral to the team's success. Photo by Josh Miller.

The Gilroy High boys basketball team recently won back-to-back games against Watsonville High and Christopher High, marking the team’s first winning streak in two years. It speaks to the continued improvement of the program, bringing optimism to a squad that entered the week with six victories—two more than it had all of last year.

In a 53-52 victory over Watsonville on Jan. 12, the Mustangs roared back after trailing by 10 points with 3 minutes, 32 seconds remaining, and by five points with 53 seconds left. However, Carlos Andrade had a steal and layup followed by a 3-pointer, the latter which put Gilroy up for good with 17 seconds to go.

The Mustangs ended the game on a 10-0 run, with Andrade scoring all five of his points in that stretch. Brendan Doyle scored a team-high 15 points, and Josh Filice-Hollar had 13 points and a team-best seven rebounds. Mustangs coach Mike Suarez said James Vegas, Trey Bursey and Jaeru Are “provided solid defensive efforts,” as the trio combined for four steals while drawing two charging violations.

In a convincing 67-58 victory over crosstown rival Christopher on Jan. 17, Gilroy once again produced an impressive comeback. Trailing by 10 points after the first quarter and five at halftime, the Mustangs took control with a 21-9 third-quarter run, giving them a 45-38 lead entering the fourth quarter.

Christopher responded with a surge, taking a 53-52 lead with 2:59 remaining. However, Gilroy had the answer in the form of a 10-0 run—Drew Gumin had a 3-pointer, Doyle hit a 3-pointer and two free throws, and Vegas scored to account for the burst—giving a lead Gilroy would not relinquish.

“We have been emphasizing the importance of the third quarter all season, and we had our best third quarter of the season (against Christopher),” Suarez said in an email to the Dispatch.

Doyle, who is one of three freshmen starters, had an outstanding performance, finishing with 21 points, including going 8 for 8 from the free throw line. Vegas had 11 points and eight rebounds, and Mason Gumin had 10 points. Suarez said Are, Bursey and Straub “provided solid defensive efforts in their defensive focused roles.”

Bursey always guards the opposing team’s one or two best players. Doyle and Filice-Hollar added skill and toughness to the squad after both had standout seasons on the football team. Doyle started the season on the freshmen team before getting called up to the varsity midway through the season.

Filice-Hollar played on the junior varsity team before getting called up for Gilroy’s Central Coast Section playoff championship run. In the team’s first playoff contest, Filice-Hollar played for most of the fourth quarter. The 6-foot-2, 170-pounder realized he was vastly undersized playing tight end and defensive end.

“Playing on the varsity told me I needed to work out and gain some pounds,” he said.

Because there were only 17 players on the junior varsity football team, Filice-Hollar had to be durable.

“Everyone stays on the field,” he said. “There is no time for a break.”

Doyle and Filice-Hollar made a seamless transition to the hardwood, with Doyle playing a shooter’s role and Filice-Hollar excelling on both ends of the floor.

“I like playing defense and pushing the ball up, just to get teams out of rhythm,” Filice-Hollar said.

Both players said they enjoyed beating Christopher, as several of the players from both teams grew up playing sports together. Although the Cougars won the exhibition Sportsmanship Game before the season started, the Mustangs have bragging rights for now by winning the regular-season contest.

“It was the best feeling in the world,” Doyle said.

Added Filice Hollar: “That was probably the highlight of my season.”

In the locker room at halftime, Filice-Hollar exhorted his teammates to come out strong in the second half. And that’s exactly what they did.

“Before that game, we usually lost the third quarter,” Filice-Hollar said. “But this time we needed to give it our all and win the third quarter.”

Neither Doyle nor Filice-Hollar played in the Sportsmanship Game since they were both playing football. Doyle credits K.C. Adams, who is the NJB Gilroy-Morgan Hill chapter founder and co-president, for helping him develop his shooting acumen.

“He taught me when I should shoot, and that I should be confident,” Doyle said.

Carlos Andrade has given the team solid play this season. Photo by Josh Miller.